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Everything you Need to Know about Lyme Disease as a Traveler

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Lyme disease is one the world’s more alarming diseases, because it can manifest itself in numerous ways. Transmitted by the bite of certain infected ticks, untreated Lyme Disease can spread throughout the body and can eventually affect the heart and nervous system. While it is treatable with antibiotics, symptoms of Lyme disease have been known to persist even after treatment in some cases. In this post, we will discuss prevention, symptoms and treatment.

Prevention

Lyme disease is transmitted by ticks that are infected with the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria. There are two types of blacklegged tick – the western blacklegged tick and the deer tick – that are capable of transmitting this bacteria to humans. These ticks are generally found in temperate woodland areas of North America and Eurasia.

Prevention of Lyme disease is fairly straightforward:

1. Avoid ticks – you can do this by not frolicking around in brush or tall grass, wearing tick repellant, and asking locals before hand about the prevalence of ticks in the area.

If number one fails and you find yourself with a tick, it now becomes a question of how quickly you deal with the tick.

When you get home, take a shower and examine your body with a mirror to see if you have any ticks. Be sure to check potential hiding spots like behind the knee. You should also check your bag, clothes and anything else you may have had with you.

If you find a tick, you are going to want to remove it as quickly as possible. Do not try to burn it off. Also do not try to pull it out or flick at it. This will not work. Instead, grab some tweezers and pinch the tick at the base/head, as close to your skin as possible. Pull up on the tick with a steady motion. Do not try to tear it out or twist it – the mouth could detach and get stuck in your skin. Once the tick is removed, wash the area with warm water and soap.

There is no vaccine for Lyme disease, so prevention is on you.

Symptoms

The most common symptom of Lyme disease is a red bulls eye rash. This rash can appear anywhere from 3 to 30 days after the infection. What does it look like?

lyme disease rash

Other symptoms include fever, chills, headache, fatigue and joint aches. After several months, if left untreated, Lyme disease may begin delivering other symptoms, such as facial palsy, arthritis, and neurological problems, such as tingling, numbness and short-term memory loss.

Treatment

The good news is that Lyme disease can be treated with antibiotics. Typically, treatment involves oral doxycycline or intravenous ceftriaxone. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of Lyme disease (especially if you have also recently been exposed to a tick) you need to get to a doctor as soon as possible. Do not try taking any of these antibiotics on your own.

The bad news is that Lyme disease can have persistent symptoms even after treatment has been completed. The CDC estimates that this happens with 10-20% of patients. These persistent symptoms typically involve those related to joint pain and neurological dysfunction. It is not yet known why exactly these symptoms persist. Some think that it is due to ongoing infection, while others think that an autoimmune response is created at some point, which continues to act even after the bacteria has been eliminated.

More research is required to resolve the cause of this, but the bottom line is this: you don’t want Lyme disease, and you can avoid it if you are careful.

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